Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 7:02 AM
To every thing there is a season, a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.
On Saturday, a capacity crowd of mourners from all over the Caribbean, the United States and places beyond gathered at the Freeport Bible Church in The Bahamas to pay their last respects to my dear family friend, Delores E. Duncanson.
And it is a testament to the life she led and the people she touched that amongst those paying tribute were so many religious, political and social leaders that her sunset service had all of the dignity and reverence of a state funeral.
Yet her loved ones will readily attest that nothing would have pleased Delores more than the elegant way her children arranged her farewell and the loving way they expressed their grief. No doubt she would have been especially proud of the moving eulogy delivered by her oldest daughter, Delisa, which drew tears of joy and sorrow from virtually everyone in attendance.
If ever there was a woman for all seasons, it was Delores. She was able to handle the challenges of being a modern working woman and the demands of being a traditional wife and mother with ease and grace. No woman was more ambitious, cosmopolitan and determined to succeed yet always so loving, nurturing and giving to others in need.
Despite all of her professional achievements, however, Delores was proudest of her accomplishments as a wife and mother. Indeed, it is an indication of how much she sacrificed for her children’s success that she often spoke of praying to live to see her youngest daughter graduate from high school.
Therefore, imagine what favour she must have had with God that He allowed her to live to see all three of her daughters, namely Delisa, Brandace and Shari, not only graduate from high school but go on to become a doctor, lawyer and an accountant, respectively.
In fact, no tribute to Delores would be complete without paying homage to her relationship with God. After all, she was above all a woman of abiding faith who praised God when times were good as readily as she prayed to Him when times were bad.
Accordingly, it was her faith in the end that surely comforted her as she fought the ravages of cancer until her last breath on 22 September 2008 at 1:25 a.m. She was born on Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands; and she was 62.
Delores is survived by her devoted husband, Bertrand Duncanson, her three daughters mentioned above, and her two adopted sons, Mario and Marcian. And she was surrounded by loved ones when the Lord relieved her forever of her pain and suffering with the heaven-bound words we all long to hear: “Well done thou good and faithful servant.“
Monday, September 29, 2008 at 5:56 AM
UPDATE: Congress drafts $700 billion bailout bill to save the US (and the world) from economic meltdown
Yesterday afternoon, after 48 hours of political theater, the Bush administration and congressional leaders finally agreed on the $700 billion rescue plan, which they touted as a “Wall Street bailout to save Main Street.”
This, despite ideological carping by a few nutjob Republicans who, after leading the charge to double the national debt to over $10 trillion in recent years, are now posturing as born-again fiscal conservatives determined to spare the American people more wasteful government spending.
The legislation includes the four guiding principles Barack Obama championed, namely: 1) a ban on generous payouts for irresponsible CEOs on Wall Street; 2) replacing Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s absolute authority over the bailout’s execution with a bipartisan independent board; 3) an investor stake for taxpayers; and 4) assistance for people who are in danger of foreclosure.
[buy] impaired mortgage-related assets from financial firms — giving them cash to replace the toxic debts that have put them in danger or dissuaded them from lending. The plan is to help the firms restore their capital bases as well as the trust that enables them to borrow and lend at reasonable terms. Without this, officials worry that the credit markets, the lifeblood of the economy, would grind to a halt.
Meanwhile, there has been virtually no reporting on the $25 billion in loan guarantees for the financially strapped auto industry, which the government approved on Saturday.
Moreover, nobody knows whether these bailouts will prevent the economic meltdown everybody has been warning about. But they do answer the following question I posed in a recent commentary on this unfolding crisis:
What will happen when another corporation “too big to fail” (like GM or GE) looks to the government for taxpayer dollars to pay for their corporate losses?
[Chickens come home to roost on Wall Street..., The iPINIONS Journal, September 16, 2008]
And they confirm the cynical conclusion I drew in this commentary about the very visible hand of government reaching out to rescue so many erstwhile private companies; namely that:
If nothing else, this latest bailout should finally destroy the myth that the US is running a capitalist, free-market economy. After all, this (and the other government bailouts cited above, which effectively privatized shareholder gains and nationalized losses), coupled with longstanding corporate subsidies, are indistinguishable from the way China runs its socialist, controlled-market economy.
Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 9:19 AM
I appreciate that many of you probably knew Paul Newman more as the philanthropist whose face is the logo for a variety of food products (from “Newman’s Own” salad dressing to popcorn) than as an actor or political activist.
But, to get a sense of who Newman was, just imagine Leonardo DiCaprio someday being known more for donating hundreds of millions of dollars to charity and for his environmental activism than for acting in over 50 movies and for his reputation as a heartthrob.
After all, in his day, Newman was arguably an even bigger movie star than DiCaprio is today. He gained international fame in such films as Hud, Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and then won critical acclaim in others like The Sting, Absence of Malice and The Verdict.
Yet there’s no denying that, despite his 10 Academy Award nominations and 3 Oscars, Newman will be remembered more for his philanthropy than for his acting. And, no doubt, that’s the way he would have wanted it.
In fact he often said that his “deepest satisfaction came from philanthropy.” And, notwithstanding the millions he donated to charity, the center piece of his charitable efforts were the Hole-in-the-Wall Camps he founded for seriously ill children, which have comforted over 135,000 kids around the world, all free of charge.
Meanwhile, like Greta Garbo, Newman exhibited a visceral dislike for fame and the self-indulgent trappings of celebrity. Specifically, unlike so many stars today who feign disdain for the spotlight that continually shines on their celebrity lifestyles, he demonstrated his genuine disdain for what he called the “rubbish of Hollywood” by utterly shunning it for a more genteel lifestyle in Westport, Connecticut.
Moreover, where drive-through weddings and quickie divorces are de rigueur in Hollywood, nothing distinguished Newman’s lifestyle quite like his 50-year marriage to actress Joanne Woodward. According to Reuters, when asked the secret of his marriage, Newman said he had no reason to stray, exclaiming that:
I have steak at home. Why should I go out for a hamburger?
Yet Newman’s passion for car racing said a lot about his sense of adventure. And, where many stars today get their thrills from participating in celebrity races, Newman won critical acclaim in this sport by placing second in the grueling 24 hours at Le Mans in 1975, and by becoming the oldest driver at 70 on a winning team in the 24 hours at Daytona in 1995.
Finally, I am especially impressed with the courage Newman showed by using his fame to advance black civil rights and other social causes. Indeed, he became such a force in this respect that he ended up on President Richard Nixon’s infamous “enemies list,” which Newman reportedly regarded as:
…the highest single honor I’ve ever received.
I am also proud of the fact that Newman and Woodward were regulars at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, hailed by Newsweek as “the best of all American summer theaters” and which is hosted by my alma mater, Williams College.
Newman lost his heroic battle with cancer on Friday night at his home in Connecticut. He was 83.
Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac are dead
Friday, September 26, 2008 at 10:38 PM
Despite all the media hype, presidential debates have very little bearing on how people vote on Election Day. Instead, they tend to merely reinforce voters’ pre-existing feelings about the candidates. This means that who won the debate is invariably in the eye of the beholder.
That said, there’s no denying the suspense inherent in watching for a Dan-Quayle gaffe (by the candidate you oppose of course), or a Ronald-Reagan zinger (by the candidate you support).
Unfortunately, by this measure, tonight’s debate was a disappointment. Because both candidates deftly regurgitated hackneyed talking points from their campaign-stump speeches in answering all questions. In fact, nothing demonstrated the canned and programmed nature of this debate quite like the way moderator Jim Lehrer tried in vain to goad McCain and Obama into spontaneous face-to-face exchanges on the issues.
By contrast, McCain continually refused to return his political glare, which made his condescending refrain “Senator Obama doesn’t understand” seem like a senile tick….
That said, because Sarah Palin emerged at the Republican National Convention as such a blank slate, and because she seemed so stunningly clueless in the few interviews she’s given since then, her vice presidential debate with Joe Biden on Thursday will be for more suspenseful and promises many more memorable gaffes.
Frankly, if anyone is more in need of a dog-ate-my-homework excuse to get out of debating, it’s Palin….
McCain and Obama debate over debating…
Friday, September 26, 2008 at 3:19 AM
This year, for the first time, I not only made a New Year’s Resolution but also published it here on January 3. I did so because I thought reporting on my efforts to fulfill this particular resolution might inspire others to fulfill theirs.
Accordingly, here’s an excerpt from that original article, followed by today’s update:
I have always been blessed with good health – especially since I began swimming competitively at age 9. Therefore, I’ve never felt the need to join the madding crowd of yo-yo dieters making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight.
But that all changed recently when my doctor summoned me for a consultation on the results of my latest physical exam. In short, she informed me that I was fat and needed to lose weight … 40 pounds to be exact.
Far more troubling, however, is the self-delusion that allowed me to gain 40 pounds (up to 210) and still think that I was every bit as fit as I was when I weighed 170.
Meanwhile, my cholesterol is now over 300 and I’m presenting all of the early-stage symptoms of kidney and heart problems that took my Mummy’s life at the unforgivably young age of 64.
Never mind all of the nagging middle-age pains this extra weight has caused, but which I kept chalking up to after-workout burn. And to top it all off, I’m going blind….
Therefore, I have resolved to lose all 40 pounds by this time next year.
Finally, I had my first prostate exam. I was so traumatized, however, that I can’t even imagine having another one for at least another 10 years! (But seriously guys, if you’re over 40, I urge you to discuss the importance of prostate exams with your doctor.)
In March (when I published my 1st Quarter Report), I weighed 203, which was down from 210 in January. On June 27 (when I published my 2nd Quarter Report), I tipped the scale at 192. Not bad, but this means that I was 2 pounds short of my mid-year goal of losing 20 pounds….Today I tipped the scale at 189, which, frankly, is a miracle considering how much I ate this summer…especially at two family weddings.
(Incidentally, since I’ve always exercised regularly and eaten very healthy foods, my weight loss is due almost entirely to portion control; i.e., I still eat the same things only in smaller amounts – except when I fall off the wagon as I did this summer.)
In March, my total cholesterol was 270 (LDL: 190, HDL: 64), which was down from 325 in January. On June 27, my cholesterol was 223 (LDL: 133, HDL: 77). Today my cholesterol is 241, which, alas, is back at a high-risk level (LDL: 144, HDL: 69).
In March, my blood pressure was 125/70, which was down from 135/80 in January. On June 27, it remained essentially the same. Today my blood pressure remains the same.
That’s enough information about me. I shall publish my 4th Quarter (and final) Report on January 2, 2009. How are you coming along?
NOTE: We are suffering a pandemic of obesity (and related complications) worldwide. Therefore, I urge you to commit to annual physical exams (complete with tests for HIV and other STDs). And this applies especially to black men in Africa and the Caribbean where there seems to be a cultural belief that one visits the doctor only for emergency care.
After all, I’m a living example of the fact that, despite daily exercise, we are all vulnerable to that silent killer – CHOLESTEROL.
Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 3:07 AM
Senator John McCain made quite a show yesterday of announcing that he is suspending his campaign and withdrawing from the first presidential debate so that he can return to Washington to join the gaggle of those negotiating terms of the $700 billion financial bailout legislation now pending in Congress. And, to demonstrate his much-vaunted leadership, he informed the American people that he has asked Barack Obama to join him.
Senator Barack Obama then countered by making quite a show of announcing that it was he who took the lead in asking McCain to join him in drafting a joint statement of principles to guide the bailout negotiators. And to demonstrate his much-vaunted calm under pressure, he informed the American people that he saw no reason to suspend his campaign or withdraw from the debate.
Specifically, Obama insisted that:
It’s my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who, in approximately 40 days, will be responsible for dealing with this mess. It’s going to be part of the president’s job to deal with more than one thing at once.
Frankly, I don’t see how any reasonable person can disagree with Obama’s approach to this crisis. After all, everyone familiar with the way legislation is drafted in Washington knows full well that senators normally just state their positions and leave it to congressional staffers and experts to work out the details.
This is why Obama reiterated the four guiding principles he wants to see codified in this bailout legislation, namely:
1. A ban on generous payouts for irresponsible CEOs on Wall Street.
2. Replacing Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s absolute authority over the bailout’s execution with a bipartisan independent board.
3. An investor stake for taxpayers.
4. Assistance for people who are in danger of foreclosure.
Therefore, it is patently clear that McCain is grandstanding; especially given his admission that he doesn’t know anything about the economy, which, no doubt, is why he was insisting just days ago that the economy is “fundamentally sound.”
In fact, the notion of John McCain flying in to Washington to save the country from economic catastrophe is every bit as absurd as that of Sarah Palin flying over to Europe to broker a truce between the Georgians and Russians.
Not to mention the fact that according to Senator Chuck Schumer (D. N.Y), Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee in charge of drafting it, there was already “consensus” on this legislation even before McCain decided to play the role of white knight. Incidentally, Schumer dismissed those still opposed as just ”a few real outliers on the far right or the far left in Congress.”
But, to be fair, the Associated Press accused both candidates of playing politics as follows:
Even as McCain said he was putting the good of the country ahead of politics, his surprise announcement was clearly political. It was an attempt to try to outmaneuver Obama on an issue in which he’s trailing, the economy, as the Democrat gains in polls….
Obama, too, made a political calculation by rejecting McCain’s challenge [to suspend campaigning and cancel Friday's debate] while trying to still appear on top of the problem.
In the end, however, President George W. Bush (remember him?) may have outmaneuvered both presidential wannabes. Because he made quite a show of announcing - during an address to the nation on this crisis last night - that he summoned McCain and Obama to appear at the White House today for a photo op, which he hopes will make it clear to the American people the he’s the man with the “rescue plan” to save the nation.
To make his case, Bush warned that:
Our entire economy is in danger. Without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold.
Of course, this is the same president who warned that, without a preemptive strike on Iraq, Americans could wake up to a mushroom nuclear cloud over Los Angeles or New York City. But I hope the American people won’t hold that against him, because he really means it this time … and he’s right!
Accordingly, I predict the debate will be held tomorrow night as scheduled and that Congress will pass this $700 billion bailout legislation by the time the financial markets open on Monday morning. All of which will expose McCain’s decision to suspend his campaign and his attempt to cancel the debate as nothing more than a reactionary, hair-trigger political stunt.
September 26 at 12:03 pm: Despite his purportedly principled reasons for suspending his campaign and canceling the debate, McCain will end up doing neither. Because, even though he pulled a few commercials, reports are that he never suspended his campaign. And, even though he declared that he would not show up for the debate unless a bailout deal was done, he’s now on his way to that debate with a deal even less certain today than it was yesterday when he flew in on a reactionary, hair-trigger pledge to broker one.
So much for that political stunt….
But the moderator of tonight’s debate should make a point of asking McCain the following multi-part question:
Senator McCain, you have said that this election is all about leadership. But what does it say about your leadership that you would unilaterally blow up the years of hard work, to say nothing of the millions of dollars, that the good people of Mississippi invested to prepare for tonight’s debate, to rush to a meeting in Washington because you felt your input there was necessary to avert a national economic catastrophe, but during which you sat virtually deaf, dumb and mute while others, including your opponent Senator Obama, discussed the issues at stake, only to have you then suddenly decide that you will come after all to the place where you detonated that political bomb just 24 hours ago, expecting it to be prepared to host this presidential debate, but leaving behind the national economic crisis in Washington in even greater disarray than it was when you parachuted in to solve it….
Can you appreciate, Senator, that your behaviour during this economic crisis gives the American people the impression that your method of decision making might be too impulsive, erratic and inconsiderate to have you serve as commander in chief; do you appreciate that if we had relied on your leadership, none of us would be here tonight for this very important first presidential debate; and finally, Senator, don’t you think you owe our host, the University of Mississippi, an apology?
McCain casts Obama in sleazy campaign ad
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 3:14 AM
I officially declare the coalition of democratic forces … in Ukraine’s parliament dissolved. This has been long expected, but for me it is extremely sad. I would not call this a political apocalypse, though it is true that it is another challenge of democracy. I hope we can overcome it.
[Arseny Yatsenyuk, Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament]
With that declaration last week, yet another Ukrainian government bit the dust; which is saying quite a lot given that I felt obliged to open my most recent update on the Ukrainians as follows:
…no American politician could have anticipated the obsession fractious Ukrainians evidently developed for elections after their split from the former Soviet Union. After all, Sunday’s national poll was the third in three years, which puts the Ukrainians on track to make the Italians’ promiscuous penchant for changing governments seem positively chaste.
[UPDATE on my favorite ex-communists: the Ukrainians, The iPINIONS Journal, October 2, 2007]
Nevertheless, there were great expectations last year that the gunshot re-marriage between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the two leaders of Ukraine’s democratic forces, would last.
But I was more cynical. In fact, despite writing that “perhaps this third time will prove a charm,” I ended last year’s update as follows:
Chances are even better, however, that I’ll be writing a similar update a year from now after another round of elections are called to end yet another period of political deadlock.
And, sure enough, here I am.
It is noteworthy, however, that this third divorce was caused by far more than persistent irreconcilable differences between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.
Because it was triggered by Tymoshenko’s refusal to stand by Yushchenko when he went out on a limb in June to support another ex-communist, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, in his failed attempt to oust Russian forces from his country.
Yushchenko claims that Tymoshenko not only betrayed him (and Ukraine’s democratic forces) but was actually plotting “a political and constitutional coup d’etat” by joining Viktor Yanukovych (right), the leader of Ukraine’s pro-Russian party, in accusing Georgia’s democratic forces of provoking the Russian invasion.
That was the last straw, which evidently forced Yushchenko to walk out on his coalition government with Tymoshenko. Now there’s every indication that, despite talk of a reconciliation, Yushchenko will be forced to call snap elections within weeks.
For her part, Tymoshenko insists that the marriage can still work:
I am sorry that the president behaves irresponsibly…. I am convinced that the work of the democratic coalition will be renewed.
Except that, with the Russians feeling so adventuresome these days, they might use this latest episode (which they could argue indicates that the Ukrainians have no ability to govern this former Soviet Republic) as an excuse to do in Ukraine what they did in Georgia … to protect ethnic Russians of course.
But even if the democratic forces come to their senses and renew their vows, chances are very good that I’ll be writing a similar update a year from now….
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 5:48 AM
President George W. Bush of the United States and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran will join a queue of world leaders in New York this week to deliver canned speeches before the Annual Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. And even though none of them will say anything of any consequence (Do they ever?), it would be remiss of me not to comment on this august gathering.
Unfortunately, the only thing worth commenting on is the fact that John McCain has seized this opportunity for his VP nominee, Sarah Palin, to get a crash course in foreign relations by meeting with as many of heads of state as possible … for the first time.
And if you think this seems a rather naive and contrived approach, bear in mind that McCain declared Palin the most qualified person to serve as his VP after meeting her only once.
The McCain campaign’s slogan is ‘country first’. If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor a heartbeat from the presidency?
[David Frum, President George W Bush's former speech-writer]
Conspicuously absent from Palin’s agenda, however, are meetings with leaders of the world’s two other superpowers, namely, China and Russia. Of course, this is probably because she feels she already knows enough about America’s bilateral relations with them based on the claim that she’s been able to see their respective countries from her kitchen window in Alaska all her life….
But, to his credit, McCain made sure that Palin will have a meet and greet with rock star Bono, which every head of state knows is the only way to seem relevant in this celebrity-obsessed world.
Today at 4:31 EST: This morning, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the entire Iranian delegation sat in the General Assembly and listened respectfully as President Bush delivered his UN address.
Unfortunately, in yet another demonstration of the petulant and arrogant nature of America’s attitude towards the world, this afternoon, the entire US delegation made a point of walking out of the General Assembly just as Ahmadinejad was about to deliver his address.
I won’t even question why every US president seems to think himself too important to sit on these occasions to pay reciprocal respect to any other world leader. But that Bush did not see fit to even have the US Ambassador to the UN show Ahmadinejad this respect is inexcusable and says more about America’s imperiousness than it does about Iran’s defiance.
That said, it would have been perfectly understandable if all western diplomats listening to Ahmadinejad sermonize about God’s purpose for mankind had decided to take off their translation earpieces to spare themselves his sanctimonious and hackneyed screed.
Celebrities: the statesmen of our time
Monday, September 22, 2008 at 5:04 AM
[T]he party’s top-level National Executive Committee [NEC] has decided to recall the president of the republic before his term of office expires.
Then, in a bit of political doublespeak only former US president Richard Nixon could appreciate, Mantashe assured the country that President Thabo Mbeki:
… welcomed the news and agreed that he is going to participate in the process and the formalities.
But, to put this into perspective, just imagine waking up tomorrow and hearing the chairman of the Republican National Committee announce that his Party has decided to recall George W. Bush as president of the United States, and that Bush welcomed the news and agreed to resign. (Granted, most Americans would probably think it was about time and really welcome the news, but it would be politically cataclysmic.)
Therefore, one wonders what could have prompted the ANC to emasculate Mbeki in this ignominious fashion. And, if he was so agreeable, why didn’t it give him the same face-saving opportunity the US Congress gave Nixon; i.e., to address the nation and announce his resignation on his own terms?
Moreover, why move against him now, given that he was clearly set to retire early next year…?
In fact, the timing of this announcement only added insult to injury, coming as it did while Mbeki was still celebrating the tenuous power-sharing agreement he brokered for a coalition government in neighboring Zimbabwe.
Not to mention the irony that Mbeki has withstood damning international criticism for using his presidency to keep Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe in power, only to find now that he does not have enough power to save his own presidency.
As it happens, I have chronicled the uneasy alliance between Mbeki and the ANC’s preferred president, Jacob Zuma (pictured here behind Mbeki), which has now ended in this political coup d’etat. And much of this unease stemmed from the serial prosecution of Zuma on rape and corruption charges that began many years ago.
By way of background, here are some quotes from just a few of my commentaries on this unfolding saga:
In a truly dramatic demonstration of democratic leadership, South African President Thabo Mbeki sacked his deputy, Jacob Zuma, for being guilty of corruption – merely by association.
[Some good news about Africa...for a change, The iPINIONS Journal, June 16, 2005]
What, pray tell, is going on in South Africa?! How have political disputes within its ruling African National Congress (ANC) become such an internecine saga that President Thabo Mbeki felt compelled last week to publish an Open Letter assuring South Africans that his sacking of Deputy President Jacob Zuma was not part of a “deliberate hostile political persecution”?….
Zuma was Mbeki’s Achilles heel just as Winnie was Nelson Mandela’s! And, just as Mandela had to disassociate from Winnie (by divorcing her) to preserve the viability of his leadership, so too did Mbeki have to disassociate from Zuma (by sacking him) for the sake of his leadership.
[Support for (principled) Mbeki wanes as it surges for the (compromised) Zuma, The iPINIONS Journal, August 30, 2005]
[I commented on the] graphic and damningly probative testimony by an HIV-positive woman who claimed that Jacob Zuma – her dead father’s best friend and the man she regarded as her adopted father – had raped her. In his defense, however, Zuma took the stand and testified that – although he may have done a stupid thing (by having unprotected sex with his putative daughter) – the sex was entirely consensual, and that he was not a rapist.
Alas, the presiding judge agreed with Zuma….
Let’s hope the judge assigned to render the verdict [in his corruption] case is more judicial than paternal in his legal reasoning. Because, if he’s acquitted of the corruption charges as well, Zuma – arguably a morally bankrupt rapist and thief – will become South Africa’s next president in 2009….
[Zuma gets off on rape, The iPINIONS Journal, May 9, 2006]
“They should please not choose someone of whom most of us would be ashamed. Our country deserves better. We’re very worried that [Zuma] had relations with a woman who regarded him as a parent; and, although he is very likeable, we have to ask ourselves: ‘What is happening in the ANC?’” Thus lamented Archbishop Desmond Tutu….
Meanwhile, given his apparent failure to exert any influence over this contentious conference [to elect a new ANC leader], I feel inclined to say here that Nelson Mandela (89) must be rolling over in his grave. But he’s still kicking, and saying only that “It saddens me to see and hear of the nature of the differences currently in the organization.”
[Mbeki versus Zuma for ANC leadership, The iPINIONS Journal, December 17, 2007]
With that, this latest episode began last week when the judge presiding over Zuma’s corruption trial dismissed all charges against him. More to the point, many South Africans, including Mbeki supporters, assumed this decision would completely exculpate Zuma. This, after the judge ruled that, despite his public denials, Mbeki “may have had a role in bringing corruption charges against Mr Zuma.”
Therefore, when prosecutors immediately announced their intent to appeal the judge’s decision, the ANC’s NEC (now comprised mostly of Zuma loyalists after Zuma defeated Mbeki for the ANC leadership last December) reportedly felt the only way to stop them was to sack Mbeki. Which is understandable once you realize that Zuma’s supporters have always suspected Mbeki of wanting to see Zuma behind bars to eliminate him as the dominant force in South African politics.
As things stand, Mbeki is expected to formally tender his resignation in the coming days, unless he decides to force his ANC comrades to oust him by forcing an even more humiliating no-confidence vote in Parliament.
“Parliament should have the last word, not some kangaroo court of the ANC NEC…. Here is a person, not accused of any crime, being pushed out of office by a person who faces charges of fraud and corruption.” [Opposition leader Bantu Holomisa of the United Democratic Movement]
But if Mbeki heeds the ANC’s recall, Parliament will likely appoint a Zuma ally as caretaker president for the remainder of his term, after which everyone expects Zuma to become the next duly elected president. Then, I fear, he will do for South Africa what Mugabe has done for Zimbabwe….
In the meantime, it remains to be seen if key Cabinet ministers will decide to resign in solidarity with Mbeki. Because, if they do, this could plunge South Africa into immediate political and economic turmoil.
NOTE: Am I the only one who finds it curious, if not incomprehensible, that Mbeki is doing so little to deny or fight the charge that he masterminded the prosecution (i.e., persecution) of Zuma…?
Mbeki versus Zuma for ANC leadership
Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 8:19 AM
In 1929, the government did nothing and the fall led to the Great Depression; whereas today, it has moved over one trillion dollars (i.e., $1,000,000,000,000.00) in place to cushion the fall, hoping to stave off an even greater depression.
But don’t worry, many of the erstwhile masters of the universe are so disoriented by the sudden loss of their ill-gotten wealth that, when they jump, they’ll miss that big cushion and land right on the pavement….
Chickens come home to roost on Wall Street…
Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 5:43 AM
Dear [Donor name]
Thank you very much for your generous donation to help the TCI victims of Hurricane Ike. I really appreciate your responding to my plea on their behalf.
We raised $5,575.00 [in 72 hours] through The iPINIONS Journal, in amounts from $5 to $1000. You’ll be pleased to know that not one dollar of your donation will be subject to the political manipulations that have marred this relief effort (e.g. government officials stamping party labels on goods donated through the Red Cross, and doling out generators only to loyal party members).
Instead, I have entrusted the total amount of our donations with Mrs Misick for her to use in any way she deems will help the greatest number of people regardless of political affiliation. This will include establishing a work for food program to foster community involvement in the clean-up phase of the rebuilding effort.
(Incidentally, a number of other relief funds have sprung up lately, but I doubt any of them could boast of such a trustworthy trustee….)
In deference to appropriate focus on Ike’s landfall in Houston today, I plan to wait until next weekend to publish a donor list for public accountability purposes as promised.
I’m not sure if you added any comment with your donation in this respect but I did not receive any. Therefore, please reply to this e-mail to let me know if you’d like me to list your name and the amount of your donation, just your name, or neither.
I e-mailed a version of this letter to all donors on Saturday, September 13. Clearly, I intended to wait until this weekend to publish a donor list. But keen and impatient interest in it has compelled me to do so today.
Please recall that I provided the means for readers to donate through this website only after a number of readers expressed wariness about honoring my request for them to donate through the British Red Cross.
However, since so many of my close friends and business associates responded immediately to my initial request and donated through the British Red Cross, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to them for doing so.
I have decided to discontinue fundraising on this website after only 72 hours because a veritable cottage industry has developed amongst local groups asking for money on behalf of our victims, and I see no point in duplicating (or detracting from) their efforts. Especially since the government has even appointed a fundraising czar to ‘coordinate’ it all….
At any rate, here, as promised, is the list of those who donated through The iPINIONS Journal and agreed to have their names published:
Edward E Smith, PhD – $150
Patrick Culhane – $200
Jaclyn Berke – $1000
Richard Berke – $1000
Iain Franklin – $40
Carol and Gavin Cochrane – $500
Don and Lesley Grilley – $500
Kerry Cavender – $200
NOTE: Because I decided to publish the list today instead of on Saturday, the names of those donors who have yet to respond to my e-mail do not appear. But, to ensure that they get proper recognition, I shall republish the completed list on Saturday as originally planned.
* Published originally on Monday, September 15
Getting donations directly to TCI victims of Hurricane Ike
Friday, September 19, 2008 at 4:55 AM
Like Kibaki and his ruling party [in Kenya], all indications are that Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party lost close national elections that were held on March 29. Yet, like Kibaki, Mugabe refused to concede defeat, which also plunged Zimbabwe into post-election violence….
Therefore, it behooves Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to seek a grand compromise for a coalition government based on the Kenya model. And they would do well to heed this advice because all political and legal maneuvers to oust Mugabe are doomed to fail.
[Kenya forms grand coalition: a model for Zimbabwe?, The iPINIONS Journal, April 14, 2008]
This week, after insisting for months he never would, Robert Mugabe begrudgingly agreed to a coalition government (based on the Kenya model) that would allow him to retain his position as president and have Morgan Tsvangirai serve as prime minister.
Now they are engaged in a tug of war to determine how they will divide the 31 government ministries between their respective parties.
Mugabe, of course, is determined to appoint his ZANU-PF cronies to head all of the most powerful ministries. And this has led to reports that negotiations on the composition of their coalition government are already “deadlocked.”
Ultimately, though, I suspect Tsvangirai will make all of the necessary concessions to appease Mugabe’s bruised and humiliated ego. Because he knows that the same international pressure that finally forced Mugabe to concede to rule by coalition will soon pry his iron fist away from the reins of power - one finger at a time.
More important, however, I suspect that Mugabe is just trying vest as much legislative power in the members of his party so that, when he flies his golden parachute into exile, he won’t have to worry too much about Zimbabwean lawmakers chasing after him for the billions he stole from the national treasury during his 30-year reign of terror….
NOTE: Click here to read my latest commentary on the Hurricane Ike relief effort in the Turks and Caicos Islands, which was published today at Caribbean Net News.
Thursday, September 18, 2008 at 5:09 AM
There is no shortage of candidates lying in wait to replace Olmert when his Kadima Party holds leadership elections in September. But the one most likely to do so is Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
[Israeli PM Olmert resigns..., The iPINIONS Journal, July 31, 2008]
Accordingly, she will have 42 days to form a governing coalition.
If Livni succeeds (and I predict she will despite Israel’s notoriously fractious politics), she will become the second female prime minister in the country’s short 60-year history. (Golda Meir of course was the first. Take note America.)
If she fails, Olmert will remain a caretaker president until national elections are held early next year. And at that time she will face a formidable challenge from former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, now leader of the Likud Party (think Republican Party).
It’s anybody’s guess, however, what her election would portend for Israel’s two most-pressing national issues, namely its looming war with Iran and elusive peace with Palestine.
But, given that it was the putative dove Olmert who launched air strikes against Syria (as a dry run for Iran?), bungled a Bush-like ground war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and presided over perennially feckless peace talks with the Palestinians, one should not expect Livni to usher in much change in Israeli politics. After all, just as Americans expect John McCain to continue the policies of George W. Bush, Israelis expect Livni to continue those of Ehud Olmert.
On the other hand, if that preternatural warmonger Netanyahu becomes prime minister, war with Iran and no peace with Palestine are virtually guaranteed.
Founding of the Kadima Party
Ceremonial return of Israelis and Palestinians to roadmap to peace…
Israel vs. Hezbollah: hardly good fighting evil
Israel war against Hezbollah
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 3:55 AM
Because of my efforts last week to help compatriots in the Turks and Caicos Islands recover from Hurricane Ike, I was unable to comment on the new ad John McCain launched in which he cast Barack Obama as a pervert who wants to “teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners.”
Specifically, to reinforce the deception, the ad ends with this pithy admonition:
Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family.
The only problem is that McCain knows full well that this ad is false and dangerously misleading. Frankly, the only thing worse would have been to accuse Obama of being a pedophile.
Meanwhile, everyone in Washington knows that objective media watchdogs panned conservative nut-job Alan Keyes for running a similar ad against Obama during their senate race in Illinois in 2004.
And I would not be at all surprised if McCain was amongst those criticizing Keyes from running such a sleazy and retarded ad. After all, he won national (and bi-partisan) praise for hurling moral indignation at George W. Bush for launching an equally false and dangerously misleading attack against him in the 2000 presidential campaign, in which Bush cast him as the father of a “bastard black child.”
…age-appropriate” sex education, not comprehensive lessons to kindergartners, [to give] schools the ability to warn young children about inappropriate touching and sexual predators.
Now, if pressed, I have no doubt that McCain, like any reasonable person, would concede that he agrees with this legislation; just as, when pressed, he conceded that he disagrees with the opinion of his VP nominee, conservative nut-job Sarah Palin, that women should not be allowed abortions even in cases of incest and rape.
Therefore, the only reason to explain McCain’s willingness to do to Obama what he damned Bush for doing to him is that, like Bush, he is prepared to compromise all principles to get elected president of the United Sates.
Indeed, McCain is fond of proclaiming that he would rather lose a campaign than lose a war. But it seems he would rather lose his soul than lose a campaign. And, since he chose born-again Christian Sarah Palin not only to curry favor with women but also to inspire the evangelical base of the Republican Party, perhaps she should remind him of what Jesus said in this respect:
What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul.
Palin delivers Obamaesque speech…
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 7:42 AM
A number of people have asked in recent months why I have written so little about the sub-prime mortgage mess and its impact on the US economy. I often replied that I didn’t have a clue what to make of the mess or what it portends.
(Evidently, I am not nearly as clueless as John McCain who started off yesterday declaring that the “fundamentals of the US economy are strong.” But only hours later he was making the patently fatuous assertion that “The American worker and their innovation and their entrepreneurship, the small business, those are the fundamentals of America (sic) and I think they’re strong.” And just to reinforce his cluelessness he ended the day with a new TV ad declaring that “Our economy is in crisis.”)
Little did I know, however, that the masters of the universe on Wall Street were even more clueless.
Because only this explains the universally shocking meltdown over the weekend that wound up with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the buyout of Merrill Lynch and the fate of American International Group (AIG), the world’s largest insurer, hanging in the balance. Not to mention the 500-point tumble in the Dow on Monday, which was the biggest one-day decline since 9/11 in 2001.
In fact, this fallout stems from the gamble investment bankers (in New York, London, Hong Kong and elsewhere) took by betting the farm on sub-prime mortgages and other debt-laden transactions that would make any fly-by-night pyramid or Ponzi scheme seem financially sound.
This crisis is clearly deeper than anybody had imagined only a short time ago.
[Peter Stein, associate editor at The Wall Street Journal]
(Note: If you don’t know what sub-prime mortgages are by now, stop reading and go crawl back under your rock!)
And coming on the heels of the government’s recent bailout of Bear Sterns and receivership of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, this historic meltdown gives the impression that the entire US financial industry is now quivering in quick sand. Worse, nobody seems to know how or when the economy will rebound.
Indeed, many are calling this the biggest crisis to hit the financial markets since the Great Depression in 1929. And the worst may be yet to come – since the looming bankruptcy of AIG could make even the Great Depression seem like little more than a small-town budget crisis by comparison.
Are you enjoying watching this? You think this is funny?
[This is what one investment banker reportedly shouted at a crowd that had gathered yesterday to gawk at the procession of laid-off workers exiting the Lehman Brothers office building.]
Meanwhile, the schadenfreude is palpable amongst those who think these developments herald the belated comeuppance of rich investment bankers who have been living easy on Wall Street for far too long – primarily by “wracking up big profits and sticking it to the taxpayer when things go sour.” And even though some glee over their pink slips is understandable, it is also shortsighted.
After all, it’s only a matter of time before this meltdown comes to Main Street, making daily transactions at commercial banks (e.g. getting a car loan or a mortgage) much more expensive.
That said, this is hardly the forum, and I am hardly qualified, to distill the myriad permutations of this financial crisis or to dispense advice on how to deal with it. Although, you might find this nutshell explanation of the crisis from The Wall Street Journal somewhat helpful:
Lehman, like Bear, Fannie and Freddie, had too much leverage. Think of a homeowner with a 96% mortgage and credit card bills. If the value of the house declines only 5%, the homeowner is wiped out. The total leverage of companies like Lehman is difficult to calculate, but it is not unlike that of a highly over-leveraged homeowner. Small declines in the value of its assets jeopardize its solvency.
Finally, I feel obliged to reiterate the generally accepted fact that deposits at commercial banks (like Bank of America, Citibank and JP Morgan) are insured by the federal government (FDIC) up $100,000.
And since over 90% of Americans do not have account balances anywhere near that amount, you probably don’t have to worry about losing your savings the way many rich folks have now lost their investments on Wall Street.
All the same, it can’t hurt to ring your banker or broker for a little reassurance – especially if you are invested in a 401k or some other pension plan.
Government abandons free-market principles to save US economy…?
Today at 9:45 pm: Proving my point that nobody has a clue about how to deal with this unfolding crisis, the federal government threw AIG an $85 billion lifeline today, less than 48 hours after vowing not to bailout another financial institution.
Now the question becomes: what will happen when another corporation “too big to fail” (like GM or GE) looks to the government for taxpayer dollars to pay for their corporate losses? Never mind that the only honest answer anyone can give is: who knows?!
Frankly, if nothing else, this latest bailout should finally destroy the myth that the US is running a capitalist, free-market economy. After all, this (and the other government bailouts cited above, which effectively privatized shareholder gains and nationalized losses), coupled with longstanding corporate subsidies, are indistinguishable from the way China runs its socialist, controlled-market economy.
Sunday, September 14, 2008 at 8:19 AM
Any reporter who’s thinking of asking Sarah Palin another “sexist” question about foreign policy…beware!
NOTE: This cartoon assumes you saw Palin in her fist deer-caught-in-the-headlights moment on Friday when reporter Charlie Gibson of ABC News asked her opinion on the Bush Doctrine.
She made Dan Quayle’s first interview seem like that of a seasoned statesman. However, unlike the congenital dunce Quayle turned out to be, I suspect Sarah is a very quick study and that she’ll do much better next time….
Friday, September 12, 2008 at 7:26 PM
After destroying the tiny Caribbean island of Grand Turk, Hurricane Ike has its sights on the big US state of Texas
Houston, you have a problem:
Hurricane Ike is threatening to obliterate waterfront towns and give the skyscrapers, refineries and docks of Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, their worst pounding in a generation.
[The Associated Press]
But, where my compatriots on the Turks and Caicos Island of Grand Turk were completely at Ike’s mercy, Houstonians have been given every opportunity to run for their lives inland to safety.
Therefore, let us pray that all whose homes are in Ike’s path heeded the government’s call to evacuate; and that those who decided to hunker down survive its 110-mph winds and 20-foot storm surges, which are expected to flood the entire coastal city of Galveston.
Americans are blessed with the technology, escape routes to inland shelters and other emergency management resources to gauge and withstand hurricanes with virtually no loss of life. Nevertheless, how well local authorities enforce evacuation orders and how many daring fools ignore them (and go sight seeing in the eye of the storm) shall determine [Ike's] human casualties.
[Run for your lives, Katrina's coming, Katrina's coming, The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005]
My prayers are with you Houston….
Friday, September 12, 2008 at 8:02 AM
Many of you have expressed concerns about your donations to the British Red Cross to help relief efforts in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) getting lost in bureaucratic red tape, or worse.
Therefore, I have arranged with the Director of the TCI Business Development Center, Mrs. Lillian Misick, to get your donations directly to the victims. And here’s how:
Mrs. Misick lives on Grand Turk, the nation’s capital, where, according to the Premier, over 80% of the homes have been completely destroyed and not a single power pole is still standing. This means that people will be without electricity and phone services for weeks, if not months; and that most of island’s 6000 residents will be living in shelters indefinitely.
More to the point, she is easily the most trustworthy and popular person on the island. And it is a testament to her charitable disposition that she has already turned her generator-powered bakery into a veritable soup kitchen and distribution center for emergency supplies.
It is also an indication of my regard for her business expertise and professionalism that hers is the only TCI government agency that I’ve featured here on my weblog since 2005. (I invite you to click on “Doing Business in the Turks and Caicos Islands” in the sidebar under Blogroll for more details.)
It’s because of my longstanding professional relationship with her that she accepted my pledge of a substantial amount of money, which will enable her to use her credit card to immediately purchase food and other supplies to disburse amongst the displaced victims of this devastating hurricane. And, once power is restored, I will wire the amount of my pledge into her local bank account.
Accordingly, I am prepared to accept your donations on behalf of TCI hurricane victims. Only in this case, I have established a client trust account in their name to manage the donations and wire funds according to Mrs Misick’s disbursement requests.
You can make your donations by clicking on the PayPal Donate icon in the sidebar on this page and following the instructions to make credit card payments.
To demonstrate my good faith and provide some measure of public accountability, on Saturday, September 13, I will publish the names and amounts donated of all who contribute to this very worthy cause.
(Donors who do not want their names published should indicate so in the PayPal comments box. And everyone should indicate that donations are “For TCI hurricane relief effort”.)
On behalf of my fellow TCIslanders, I thank you for your support.
Due to the overwhelming demands being placed on her soup kitchen and distribution center, Mrs Misick has coordinated with local businessmen and pastors to create zones to distribute food and other supplies on the island in a more orderly, fair and non-partisan manner.
Through this coordination, we are committed to feeding all in need for a finite period of time. Specifically, we plan to progressively wean people off the soup kitchen and direct them towards local food stores – as soon as they open for business and power is restored to the island.
Meanwhile, islanders have begun the painful process of salvaging what little remains of their worldly possessions amongst hurricane debris.
Where we are helping to provide food and water, a major international relief agency has pledged to deliver “Shelterboxes” that will provide temporary homes for at least 3000.
Thanks again for your prayers and support.
Thanks for supporting the victims of Hurricane Ike
Monday, September 8, 2008 at 4:29 AM
By all accounts, Hurricane Ike was “the worst natural disaster to hit the Turks and Caicos Islands in living memory”. Therefore, it is a testament to our people’s resolve (and God’s grace) that we weathered its fury with little or no loss of life.
Preliminary reports indicate, however, that Ike’s 135 mph winds did considerable damage to property throughout the islands – with many homes being completely destroyed on Grand Turk and South Caicos. And it only compounded the widespread flooding that Tropical Storm Hanna left in its wake.
Consequently, many TCIslanders will be looking to the government for assistance as we begin the long and expensive process of recovery and rebuilding. This, notwithstanding complaints which made the Misick Administration seem even less prepared to deal with Hanna last week than the Bush Administration was to deal with Katrina three years ago.
All the same, I commend Premier Dr. Michael Misick for ordering the airlift of all intensive care and special needs patients to Miami well in advance of Ike’s landfall. Because chances are very good that many parts of the country, still waiting for electricity to be restored in the aftermath of Hanna, will now be without power for an extended period. Which makes me wonder why the Premier was pictured delivering raw eggs as emergency relief supplies to some residents…?
Frankly, given that our government was teetering on the precipice of bankruptcy even before Hanna, it might simply be unable to render any meaningful assistance to our people in distress.
Therefore, we should be exceedingly grateful that the British have deployed ships to the TCI with more appropriate supplies, including canned food, water, medical supplies, shelter-building equipment, a helicopter and, hopefully, a few marines to help enforce law and order. This, notwithstanding the fatuous and irresponsible claims our Premier made recently about the British fomenting an indigenous conspiracy to destabilize our country and keep us mired in the “shackles of colonialism.”
We should also appreciate that regional leaders, including Bahamian PM Hubert Ingraham and Jamaican PM Bruce Golding, have pledged significant support to help in our relief efforts. (I urge Premier Misick to request crews to help repair downed power lines and restore power ASAP.)
Meanwhile, I’m especially grateful to the tens of thousands of people from around the world who have (and will) honour the request I made here and at The TCI Journal to make donations to the British Red Cross – specifically ear-marked for the TCI.
That said, I agree with Premier Misick that:
We will recover in a way that will make us all proud.
But let us also pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti who have suffered far more catastrophic losses in the wake of Hanna and Ike (as this picture clearly shows).
NOTE: Please make donations for the TCI (and Haiti) through the British Red Cross: www.redcross.org.uk
Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 12:02 AM
Fellow Turks and Caicos Islanders will be sustaining the full brunt of Hurricane Ike’s fury this morning. God help them…
Talk about anxiety, I’m dreading reports later this afternoon on what property damage they’ve sustained.
Because chances are very good that many parts of the country will be without power for an extended period - after Ike (now a category 4 hurricane with winds of 135 and gusts of 160 mph) blows by. Which makes me wonder why the Premier was pictured delivering raw eggs to those left behind as part of their emergency supplies…?
Thankfully, I am reliably informed that the British have ships on standby in the Caribbean Sea with more appropriate supplies, including food, water, medical supplies, shelter-building equipment, as well as a helicopter (and, hopefully, a few marines to help enforce law and order).
NOTE: The British Red Cross has launched an appeal for funds to assist hurricane victims. Therefore, I beg you to contact them at the address below, and please request that your donation be ear-marked for the . Thank you.
Tropical storm Hanna lashes the TCI, and Ike’s on the way